January 14, 2006

Christians and Progressives Revisited

I have had an excellent and very appreciated response to my entry entitled An Alliance of Christians and Progressives?

Here is one by email:

I clearly identify w/ the progressive or liberal end of the bell curve, and though raised Roman Catholic, do not identify myself as such or even as Christian. I would relish the opportunity for those in my so-called “camp” to reach out and embrace the “Christian conservatives,” but I haven’t heard of a plausible or clear strategy for “us” to reach out or communicate to “them.” I suspect it’s a “respect” issue that’s eroded, almost irretrievably. I imagine what “we” are viewed as elitist, over-educated pinko-commie fags, and “they” as ignorant gun-toting trailer trash. That’s a large divide to overcome, especially when Christian radio, and the message of the likes of Falwell and Robertson is so pervasive and well-received. And I’m not holding my breath for the time when “they” are going to reach out or communicate with “us.”

Another by email:

If you are waiting for the electorate to get up in arms about monitoring US citizens who are communicating with known Islamo-facist elements, either inside or outside our borders, then you are going to be waiting for a long time. The more the democrats wail about this, the more votes they will lose. If spying is occurring, on the other hand, on domestic targets who are nothing more than political threats to the current administration (a la Watergate) then John Dean will be proven correct, and there will be ample conservatives joining the call for impeachment based upon such an abuse of power. Further, if you are waiting for Christians/Social Conservatives to become "enlightened" as to the relative unimportance of an issue like abortion, you will be waiting for a very, very, long time. The sanctity of human life is inseperable from any reasonable interpretation of Christian theology, or the more secular documents upon [which] this nation was founded, for that matter. Regarding the supposed "loss of diversity" among media outlets, I find that completely laughable. We have witnessed an explosion in the availablity of information since Al Gore invented the Internet. This is much to the chagrin of the American Pravda (CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN) who no longer have the luxury of putting out their editorials-disguised-as-news without being called on it.

Another leaves a comment on the Orwell's Grave:

Referring to my statement that: it may be hard to imagine, but I foresee an alliance, of sorts, between progressives and fundamentalist Christians on a number of important, politically revolutionizing fronts.

Kvatch says: This is not hard to imagine at all. The American populist movement had its roots in the predomonantly protestant, but still quite religious midwest, where faith was married with a notion of duty to improve the plight of workers and farmers.

And J.D. Ryan takes me to task for "not knowing how much ignorance I am up against here." He cannot see how all these uneducated "fundies" could possibly vote any other way than how they are programmed religiously and politically, and that when people have beliefs, albiet deeply held irrational ones, when confronted with things that challenge thier world view, they react accordingly.


I had hoped to simulate some discussion and I have.

I agree with my first emailer that there is alot of water under the bridge between liberals/progressives and fundamentalist evangelical Christians, and I suspect that there is a loss of respect, as he points out, in so many ways we can't begin to count. But I believe there are some of these Christians who are accessible and open to some of the issues we are talking about. I think some of them resonate with them on a personal and family level that may or may not be conscious.

Thanks to the email about the history of alliances between Christians and progressives. The populist movements in the 19th and 20th century are stories of just such alliances. Many member of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Democrats were Christian progressives. It is a history worth looking at. I do maintain, however, that modern-day, political Christian fundamentalists, in their current numbers, political organization, and recruitment -- by a dedicated cadre of men and women -- far surpasses anything we have seen in American political history.

To my other emailer (and to J.D. Ryan) I am not contending that huge numbers of fundamentalists Christians will become "enlightened," and will, therefore, see the error of their ways. What I am hoping for is that some of the more basic economic, enviromental and family survival issues will eclipse the heat of anti-abortion and anti-homosexual religious fervor.

I believe that the more some of these people are adversely affected by job loss, pension loss, health care crises, relative wage decreases, and the like, that they will begin to act -- and, more importantly vote -- to support their self-interests and the self-interests of their families. They can still yell and scream about abortion and gays, but their vote is secret, and I believe, with the right message, and in the face of compelling realities, they can become a part, even a silent part, of the alliance I am talking about. I believe there will be other fundamentalists Christians who will be more vocal about it. There are already some evangelical fundamentalists who are talking about the ruination of our natural world, the world that we were given to nurture and sheperd.

I contend that it is simply human nature for huge, ill-defined groups like "fundamentalist Christians" to have within them a range of people, some of them more moderate. And by the way, there are plenty of evangelical Christians who have college educations, and not at just "Christian" schools. We do ourselves, and them, a disservice if we simply dismiss them all as ignorant and uneducated.

Of course, I do not expect the fatally deluded to do anything but what is predictable -- namely, to continue to act in passionate support of people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Phyllis Schlafly, Gary Bauer, James Dobson, Ralph Reed, Tony Perkins, and others like them. I do not expect Pat Robertson to wake up one day and start demanding that we must organize unions at Wal-Mart. I do not expect Phylllis Schlafly to start advocating for better enforcement of domestic violence laws. And I do not expect Jerry Falwell to wake up one morning and ask his followers to give to their local food bank, instead of to him. And I do not expect that millions of their followers will do the same.

But there will be some who will hear, who will listen, who will see what is happening to them. The more that progressives, liberals, social democrats, human and civil rights activists, trade unionists, and others can help to clarify and communicate some of the issues I listed, the better.

If what one emailer said is true, about the rise of the internet serving as the answer to the lack of media diversity, then we will need the internet to help communicate these ideas. But a word to the wise. Just because there are tens of thousands of progressive political blogs, don't get carried away believing they carry the same weight as what you call the "American Pravda." The vast majority of Americans, right and left, still read, listen to, and watch that "American Pravda" and never see the stories by watchdog groups and hot button bloggers who point out the lies and misinformation.

We cannot forget the numbers. We do so at our peril.

The very reason we have such healthy activity on the internet is because of the loss of diversity in the rest of American media. But that activity simply does not replace a healthy print and broadcast press, regardless of how much time you and I may spend on the internet.

Finally, in response to the assertion that If spying is occurring, on the other hand, on domestic targets who are nothing more than political threats to the current administration (a la Watergate) then John Dean will be proven correct, and there will be ample conservatives joining the call for impeachment based upon such an abuse of power, I will not hold my breath waiting for Republican conservatives to rally to impeach Bush. There are too many reasons mitigating against it.

There really is too much wiggle room in the FISA law and its interpretation.
The complexities of this issue are far greater than a burglary and coverup.
Nixon did what he did to win an election.
Bush did what he did to protect the country.
And finally, the administration would take this issue to the Supreme Court and Bush has stacked the deck with Roberts and Alito.

In lieu of direct evidence that Bush committed an clear crime, impeachment is not going to happen.

We need to spend our energies on changing the Congress in 2006, and the White House in 2008. Lending so much of our passion and energy to impeaching Bush isn't going to get us anything, except President Cheney.


J.D. Ryan said...

Steve said:
"What I am hoping for is that some of the more basic economic, enviromental and family survival issues will eclipse the heat of anti-abortion and anti-homosexual religious fervor."

I'd like to comment on that on particular to what I said before...The problem here is that, as you put well, most of these people are getting thier info from the "American Pravda". That same noise machine is what somehow manages to convince them that the economic/family survival issues have to do with the 'liberal menace'. Combine that with a poor education and the despair of working three jobs, and you see where we're at.

I'm not disagreeing that somehow an alliance or a reaching out would be a bad thing. But when the major media mouthpieces such as Rush Limbaugh make such comments regarding not compromising with liberals and wanting to destroy them completely, and this person is where they get a lot of ther news from, we should see what a daunting task this is.
Did you read the Joe Bageant piece I linked to? I think a lot of what is said in that is pertinent to this discussion we're having right now.

And as much as it is hard to admit, I suspect there are some amongst us, myself included, that wish that we didn't have to deal with people like this in our country to begin with. That's no different than what they feel(minus the intense hatred). SO that plays a factor, too. Only difference is we have the facts on our side.

Stephen McArthur said...

Facts don't matter. The people you are talking about will not be swayed by facts. The people who listen to Rush Limbaugh every day are not the people I am talking about. Quite frankly, the people who work three jobs (or two jobs) do not have time to listen to Limbaugh. Christian fundamentalists, who oppose abortion and homosexuality, who are suffering from job loss, wage reduction, benefits reduction, pension loss, poor health care coverage, lousy employers, family crises, credit card bankruptcy, mortgage and housing threats, are forced, by their very realities, to think about political choices differently. We need to find ways to exploit that.

And yes, I have linked to Joe and been reading him for some time. I am eagerly awaiting his book. His piece on the Left Behind series is excellent. You need to differentiate. Don't look at things in such black and white ways. People are different, even among evangelicals and fundamentalists.

You are the perfect example of what Joe says about Democrats not having a clue about how to deal with the fact that there is such a huge number of these people. I know you abhor them, I know they make your skin crawl. But that is not helpful to developing a strategy to take back this country from them.

And besides, having working among evangelical Christians in a political context in Washington DC, I know a little something about their beliefs and organizational structures. Maybe I will write about it sometime.

Dicky Neely said...

Whew! There's a lot to digest there in the foregoing comments.
I saw some I agreed with and some I didn't but there is one item I would like to address.
There is a basic dishonesty permeating the right wing argument supporting Bush's illegal wiretaps.
They say "Bush has every right to use this tool to protect us from terrorism and in this era of modern technology intelligence services need to be able to react rapidly."
That's true, but no one is arguing against that. The opposition exists because the administration has a pattern of illegal wiretapping, with no court orders.
Ay! There's the rub! With the existing FISA court, which can issue such an order in 72 hours or less, or authorize future wiretaps as they may be needed without having to take the time to go before the court, there is no legitmate reason to bypass the requirement for a court order.
It is clear, and has been discussed in some of these comments, that a real danger exists when a federal agency has unrestrained power to spy and wiretap. The tempatation to use this power for domestic political means can be overwhelming.

Stephen McArthur said...

Dicky -- I agree with you. I just think that the Bush administration will make a case for itself defending the country successfully enough to fend off this attack. It will throw lotgs of legal poixie dust into as many people's eyes as possible and drag it all on so long that by the time Bush leaves office, it still won't be resolved. The question they are posing is -- and it's a long one, so bear with me -- in a time of war, when the country is AT WAR, and the President is responsible for defending the country against terrorist and all other attacks, and when it is proven that he has been successful in fending off all attacks since 9/11, and that he is the biggest patriot since -- golly, since maybe anybody, he is just simply the biggest patriot ever -- should he not have the authority to act unilaterally when he thinks there is reason enough to keep the evil-doers from killing our innocent women and children? Look, the CIA told the NSA about some guy who was going to talk to some other guy in two hours, and they told the FBI who said the FISA 72 hour thing was way too long and Gonzalez went to Cheney who went to the President who said go ahead, because we have to defend this country. This is going to be debated ad nauseum until they somehow send it to the Supreme Court which will decide in his favor. Look, he did it all to save the country, you idiots, so shut up already.

That's what I think will happen.

I understand what you are saying but it won't matter in the end.

J.D. Ryan said...

I realize the huge number of them. You are also right that I don't know how to deal with them. I should have stated that in no way am I saying that this his how ALL fundies think. I can do nuance. But by and large, you must agree that this is the mindset of how the politically active/vocal ones think. And the challenge here is that on many of thier deepest held beliefs(the Rapture, etc), they don't require evidence to believe what they do, so presenting new evidence about things that make our case is not going to necessarily have an impact. And there is a tremendous amount of mistrust. I agree with you 110% that we need to find ways to bridge those gaps. But I am clueless as to how to go about it.

Progressive Traditionalist said...

Sorry I missed your earlier post (I read here about once a week or so).
But to the end that it may prove helpful, I would like to inform you of Progressive Faith BlogCon. Here's a link, if you would like to learn more, with an invitation at the end, if you would like to get involved.